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Diamond School

June 09, 2022 3 min read

Diamond School

We’re here to help you make an informed lifetime decision about the diamonds in our shop. The purchase is a big choice and we love being able to make fine jewelry education easily accessible to our customers. With Valerie’s degree in environmental science and deep respect for natural stones, combined with our staff gemologist Lauren’s gemology education, only the best diamonds make it past our team’s discerning eyes. 

Everything a beginner needs to know is broken down into the four C’s: Carat, Cut, Clarity, and Color. These famous four criteria were created by the Gemological Institute of America and are globally accepted as a standard for diamond buyers. Diamonds all over the world are graded based on these factors. Read on below to dive into each of the 4 C’s.


Diamonds are best known for their trademark sparkle. This is the result of the diamond's facets interacting with a light source. A stone’s cut is a product of many contributing factors. These factors fall within one of two categories: craftsmanship and appearance. The craftsmanship includes weight ratio, durability, polish, and symmetry. While appearance includes brightness, scintillation, and fire. There are many different proportions that can produce an attractive diamond. Which is why the GIA has a range of cut grades from excellent to poor. With excellent cut diamonds displaying superior optical properties. A diamond's cut can impact its visual face-up appearance compared to its actual carat weight. Click here to learn more about rose-cut vs brilliant-cut diamonds and how a diamond’s cut can change the fundamental appearance of a ring. This is one of the reasons we use dimensions measured in millimeters in our stone descriptions; sometimes carat weight doesn’t give you the full picture.  


When discussing diamond color, we are usually referring to the normal color scale. This scale ranges from D to Z, with D being colorless. As you approach Z on the color scale, you get stones that are usually considered less desirable. These stones tend to be less expensive due to their increase in color. Diamonds also come in fancy colors such as pink, yellow, and blue. Natural fancy colored diamonds have a separate grading scale. Fancy-colored stones tend to command a higher price due to their rarity. 


A diamond's clarity grade refers to a stone's absence of "flaws", also known as a stone's inclusions. Your stone's unique inclusions are like a fingerprint. A diamond with fewer inclusions is rarer than a diamond with many inclusions. And in most cases, the stone with fewer inclusions tends to increase in value. A clarity characteristic can be either internal (inclusions) or external (blemishes). The GIA developed eleven categories to describe the clarity characteristics of a diamond. Below are descriptions of the clarity grades taken directly from the GIA's website

  • Flawless (FL) - No inclusions or blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification
  • Internally Flawless (IF) - No inclusions and only blemishes are visible to a skilled grader using 10× magnification
  • Very, Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2) - Inclusions are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10× magnification
  • Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2) - Inclusions are minor and range from difficult to somewhat easy for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification
  • Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) - Inclusions are noticeable to a skilled grader under 10x magnification
  • Included (I1, I2, and I3) - Inclusions are obvious under 10× magnification and may affect transparency and brilliance


Carat weight is a unit of measurement unique to diamonds and gemstones. One carat is equal to 0.02 grams and was originally derived from the carob seed, used by old gem traders. Carat weight is often rounded to a hundredth of a carat when describing a gem's weight. A small difference in the carat weight of a diamond can dramatically impact the cost of a stone.

When you are ready to shop for a diamond, consider what quality factors are most important to you.

Are you ready to get started on a custom diamond engagement ring? Please contact Custom@ValerieMadison.com or schedule an appointment at our Seattle studio.


  1. https://www.gia.edu/gia-about/4cs-carat
  2. https://www.gia.edu/gia-about/4cs-cut
  3. https://www.gia.edu/gia-about/4cs-color
  4. https://www.gia.edu/gia-about/4cs-clarity